A Hard Look at How We SEE Race #policeshootings

BLOG BONUS: In light of yesterday and the day before and the day before and last year and for many years, and the shootings of black men/women/children by police, it’s time we recognize how racial bias exists around us… Lara Trace

 

Tao did a great job here:  When we know better, we do better…  TALK TO YOUR KIDS

“For the first time in history, we’ll be able to see firsthand how police officers make contact with the public and how those interactions unfold in real time,” Eberhardt says. “And we’ll soon be in a position to design interventions that can directly affect the course of those interactions.”

A Hard Look at How We See Race

Jennifer Eberhardt’s research shows subconscious connections in people’s minds between black faces and crime, and how those links may pervert justice; law enforcement officers across the country are taking note. By Sam Scott, from Stanford Magazine
Winter 2015

 

Eberhardt’s research has shown that police—black and white officers alike—are more likely to mistakenly identify black faces as criminal than white faces. Illustration by Jacob Sanders

The first time Jennifer Eberhardt presented her research at a law enforcement conference, she braced for a cold shoulder. How much would streetwise cops care what a social psychology professor had to say about the hidden reaches of racial bias?

Instead, she heard gasps, the loudest after she described an experiment that showed how quickly people link black faces with crime or danger at a subconscious level. In the experiment, students looking at a screen were exposed to a subliminal flurry of black or white faces. The subjects were then asked to identify blurry images as they came into focus frame by frame.

The makeup of the facial prompts had little effect on how quickly people recognized mundane items like staplers or books. But with images of weapons, the difference was stark—subjects who had unknowingly seen black faces needed far fewer frames to identify a gun or a knife than those who had been shown white faces. For a profession dealing in split-second decisions, the implications were powerful.

Lorie Fridell, then head of research for a law enforcement policy group in Washington, D.C., says Eberhardt’s research helped her resolve a nagging paradox. She sensed that law enforcement had a problem with racial profiling. Yet she was certain the vast majority of officers would sincerely recoil at the idea of policing with prejudice.

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In 2004, with her reputation yet to be widely established, she organized an unprecedented conference at Stanford on racial bias in policing, bringing together scores of academics from across the country with law enforcement officials from 34 agencies in 13 states.

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More than a decade later, Eberhardt is no longer the anonymous academic she was then. A “genius award” from the MacArthur Foundation last year served as perhaps the broadest notice yet that Eberhardt is someone with something vital to say. Yet her signature remains the same: unsettling research revealing the long, pernicious reach of unconscious racial bias, and an unrelenting commitment to share her findings with the outside world.“This is not someone who is just doing work in the ivory tower of a university,” says Chris Magnus, chief of police in Richmond, California, a Bay Area city where a quarter of the population is black. “This is someone who is really out in the trenches working with police departments and the criminal justice system.”Eberhardt’s message is not an easy one to hear, particularly for the many Americans who think racial discrimination is largely a thing of the past, or that they themselves would never treat someone differently because of race, or that racism is somewhere else.In one study capturing how high the stakes are, Eberhardt and her colleagues analyzed two decades’ worth of capital murder cases in Philadelphia involving white victims and black defendants—44 cases in all. The defendants’ photographs were independently rated according to how stereotypically black they appeared.

 

During a lecture at Stanford in April, while standing under an image of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was shot and killed by police in her hometown of Cleveland, Eberhardt made explicit the connection between her research and the events roiling the nation. The recent protests and tumult in response to police killings, she said, are part of the cost of not seeing—the price of our blindness to bias.

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6 thoughts on “A Hard Look at How We SEE Race #policeshootings

  1. Let me start by apologizing, ..for having a different opinion. Just because the cops have to shoot a black man to get the front page, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to white people, ..a lot! It seems that in the US, it’s only OK to call it Police brutality when it effects a minority. That irritates me to no end because as long as we ignore the fact that there is an epidemic of police abuse that affects everyone, it will never change. 159 pages of fair reporting, it happens to all of us: http://thefreethoughtproject.com/category/cop-watch/police-brutality-cop-watch/

    Police integrity lost: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/249850.pdf

    We are the ones in need of a change of attitude, or the cops will do whatever they want. Greetings.

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  2. I was talking about different research but in the same vein – and how we ALL need to take responsibility. It’s uncomfortable. But what’s happening is unacceptable, and if I”m not part of the solution, I’m part of the problem. I’m willing to do my part. I can’t see another person lost like this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Lara/Trace, its so important to drill down to establish the root cause, police violence, gun laws all seem to me to be just symptoms of something more sinister and deeper. To me, fear is the smoking gun and our leaders, churchmen and soldiers have been peddling it for years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes Roly, yes. We were discussing how Australia doesn’t have the mass shootings as we do here. Fear is definitely a factor. History shows us that fear has created a divided “united” states.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am sorry – but I just don’t know enough of America to comment – but I have been a few times and have enjoyed it very much. People are very welcoming. I have American friends and they are lovely, but yet it seems so mixed up – it really is a tragedy. I have seen the deprivation, unemployment and the rich getting richer (but more importantly more powerful) I wish there was an easy answer, but in the meantime I hope things get better sooner rather than later.

        Liked by 1 person

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